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Priest Pleads Guilty To Sexual Assault Charges

Nov 20, 2002 | Maryland Gazette

Wayland Yoder Brown's victim was on hand in a Rockville courtroom Tuesday to hear the Georgia priest plead guilty to sexually assaulting him nearly 30 years ago in Gaithersburg.

Only 13 at the time of the abuse, the victim now 41, was so humiliated and embarrassed that he once contemplated killing Brown and himself, Assistant State's Attorney Peter Feeney told the Circuit Court judge.

Brown pled guilty to one count of child abuse and to one count of battery for improperly touching the boy's younger brother. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 22.

Brown tried to assuage the victim's tortured feelings in court.

"Nothing [the victim] said or did, nothing he failed to do caused this," the 59-year-old priest, clad in a dark blue prison jumpsuit, said. "It is not because he failed to stop it, it is not because he invited any abuse. He is in no way responsible for what happened.

"If it helps in the healing process to know it, he should know it," said Brown, who was arrested June 26 in his hometown of Savannah, Ga., and extradited to face charges in Montgomery County.

The victim and his family declined comment after the hearing. The Gazette does not identify victims of sexual abuse.

The abuse took place in 1974 when Brown was a seminary student studying in Washington, D.C., and living for a few months at the St. Rose of Lima Church in Gaithersburg. While there, he befriended the boy's family, who were devout Catholics, and took the boy and his younger brother to the movies, hiking and to a Rod Stewart rock concert.

One night Brown slipped into the boy's bed as he slept in the family's Gaithersburg home, not far from St. Rose's, and began fondling him, beginning the first of several instances of sexual abuse that would continue for months, said Feeney, who laid out the abuse in explicit detail in the courtroom.

The boy was also abused in Georgia, where he went with his younger brother after Brown urged their mother to put the boys on a train to his place, Feeney said.

Prosecutors said the statute of limitations has run out in Georgia, barring authorities there from bringing a case against Brown. At least five other victims have told Montgomery prosecutors that they were abused by Brown, Feeney said, saying some of their testimony will be used at Brown's sentencing.

Authorities in the Diocese of Savannah, where Brown was ordained in 1977, were well aware even before his ordination of his fondness for young boys, said a law enforcement source. The diocese had received letters indicating that Brown was an unsuitable candidate for priesthood because of his inappropriate conduct with boys and his sexual orientation, the source said.

Barbara D. King, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Savannah, said Tuesday that she was unaware of these concerns about Brown. Bishop J. Kevin Boland said now that Brown has pled guilty, he will no longer allowed to perform any priestly duties.

In a previous interview, King said Brown had left Savannah's St. James the Less Church in 1988 because of "a personality conflict." Brown served in at least four churches in Georgia and has been unassigned since 1988.

King also denied Brown left because of anything "sexual" in nature.

However, the diocese sent Brown to St. Luke's Institute in Silver Spring sometime in 1986-87, Feeney told the judge.

Brown's lawyer, Paul F. Kemp, said after the hearing that Brown was treated for sexual addiction at the institute, that specializes in treating priests for the disorder. Brown has been sexually abstinent since receiving that treatment, Kemp said.

Brown faces as much as 15 years in jail, but Kemp said he would push for probation to three-and-a-half years in jail.

"He feels so terrible about this, he wanted to apologize right after he was arrested," Kemp said, saying his client has declined a bond hearing since his arrest, preferring to stay in jail. "He wants to mend this, he wants to be punished."

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